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Imprisonment and other measures which result in cutting off an offender from the outside world are afflictive by... depriving [the person] of his liberty. Therefore the prison system shall not, except as incidental to... the maintenance of discipline, aggravate the suffering inherent in such a situation.

Article 57, United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

Cuba confines its sizable prison population in substandard and unhealthy conditions, where prisoners face physical and sexual abuse. Cuban prison practices fail in numerous respects to comply with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which provide authoritative guidance on the treatment of prisoners under international law and treaties.242 Despite grave problems in its prisons, Cuba has asserted its full compliance with the Standard Minimum Rules.243 Cuba told the U.N. that in May 1997 its Interior Ministry promulgated new prison regulations that "took into account" the Standard Minimum Rules, as well as Cuba's constitution and other legislation.244

Cuba's refusal to allow domestic or international human rights monitors to conduct regular visits to its prisons casts a veil of secrecy over its extensive prison system, reportedly one of the largest per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba refuses to disseminate even the most basic prison statistics, such as prison population figures. Cuba's Penitentiary Establishment Directorate, however, reportedly maintains a centralized, computerized system that wouldreadily make available detailed information about all detainees in Cuba's prisons.245 Cuba has promised to do so with respect to the racial makeup of its prison population, in response to questions as to whether persons of African descent are over-represented.246 In late 1996 Cuba reportedly operated some forty maximum security prisons, thirty minimum security prisons, and over 200 work camps.247 Prisoners reportedly completed the construction of Cuba's newest prison in early 1998. The facility, which has space for 300 inmates and is next to the maximum-security Valle Grande prison in Havana, apparently is being used to hold the increasing numbers of women accused of prostitution. However, in late 1997 the Cuban government told the U.N. that "there were only nineteen closed prisons in Cuba, together with a number of open prisons." The government did not detail the distinction between closed and open prisons. Cuba also said that, "whatever the case, the number of places of detention in Cuba, including police stations, was less than 250."248 Our research suggests that the government's figures are artificially low.

In preparation for this report, Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of former Cuban prisoners and family members of current and former prisoners(gathering information on twenty-four of Cuba's maximum security prisons and numerous other detention centers, such as police stations and state security offices), as well as human rights activists within Cuba, many of whom are former political prisoners. Our interviews reveal that male and female Cuban prisoners, including political prisoners whose treatment is discussed in greater detail below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners, endure severe hardships in Cuba's prisons. Most prisoners suffer malnourishment from an insufficient prison diet and languish in overcrowded cells without appropriate medical attention. Some endure physical and sexual abuse or long periods in isolation cells. Prison authorities insist that all detainees participate in politically oriented "reeducation" sessions or face punitive measures. In many prisons, authorities fail to separate all of the pretrial detainees from the convicts and minors from adults. Cuba has stated that only 8 percent of its detainees have not been tried, but qualified this assertion with an unusual description of a "trial" as, typically, "a six-to-nine month" period before any sentence is handed down.249 This explanation suggests that Cuba has a far larger percentage of pretrial detainees, who are imprisoned without being convicted of any crime, for periods of six to nine months or longer. Minors risk indefinite detention in juvenile facilities, without benefit of due process guarantees or a fixed sentence.

The Cuban Interior Ministry runs the prison system, with soldiers often serving as prison guards and labor camp overseers. Each prison's staff includes a reeducator, usually a military official, assigned to direct the prison population's pro-government political indoctrination. In facilities holding political prisoners, special units of the state security police reportedly take responsibility for overseeing the detainees' sentences. Prison guards in men's facilities name prisoners to powerful positions as members of "prisoners' councils" or "disciplinary councils," (consejos de reclusos or consejos de disciplina) and rely on these prisoners to maintain internal discipline. Prison authorities apparently select members of the prisoners' councils because they have records of violence or "thuggery" (matonismo) and sometimes allow them to carry sticks.250 One prisoner held in the Agüica maximum security prison in Matanzas from late 1996 to February 1998 said that three or four members of the prisoners' councils took charge of discipline and food distribution for each company of approximately 150prisoners.251 The council members commit some of Cuba's worst prison abuses, including beating fellow prisoners as a disciplinary measure and sexually abusing prisoners, under direct orders from or with the acquiescence of prison officials.252

Bar on Domestic and International Monitoring of Prison Conditions

The Cuban government bars regular access to its prisons by domestic and international human rights and humanitarian monitors. While the government allowed a representative from Human Rights Watch to visit Cuba and interview twenty-four political prisoners in 1995, as part of a human rights mission with France-Libertés, the Federation Internationale des Droits de l'Homme, and Medicins du Monde, the government strictly controlled the access to the prisoners and did not allow us beyond the administrative sections of any prison visited.253 We later learned that Cuban authorities surreptitiously audiotaped our interviews with the prisoners and based decisions to release or continue to imprison them on the content of their conversations with us (specifically, their positions for or against the U.S. embargo on Cuba).254 The Cuban government has not allowed Human Rights Watch to return officially to Cuba since 1995. While the Cuban government allowed two groups restricted access to a juvenile detention center in the past year, we know of no Cuban or international organization granted open access to Cuba's prisons and prisoners. Cuba never allowed U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cuba Ambassador Carl Johan-Groth to enter the country, much less its prisons.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), which visits prisoners in custody for political and security offenses all over the world, last conductedprison visits in Cuba in 1988 and 1989. ICRC delegates carry out strictly humanitarian work: they interview prisoners to determine their material and psychological needs and, if necessary, provide them with supplies, such as medicine, toiletries, and clothing. They also observe the treatment afforded detainees and ask the authorities to take needed steps to improve that treatment.255 In 1989, the agreement between the Cuban government and the ICRC was suspended, and the visits foreseen for 1990 could not take place. Cuba's refusal to allow human rights and humanitarian groups access to its prisons represents a failure to demonstrate minimal transparency. Moreover, the government's barring of the ICRC, which works behind the scenes to protect the rights of political prisoners and does not publicize its findings, shows a profound lack of concern for those prisoners' welfare.0


Cuban prisoners measure their prison rations by the spoonful, rather than by the bowl or plate. Most prisoners suffer malnutrition on the prison diet—typically losing significant amounts of weight while serving their sentences.1 A former prisoner at the Provincial Prison of Holguín recalled that during his four-year incarceration in the prison (from March 1994 until February 1998), his daily food ration would fit into one small cup.2 When asked what she received for her evening meal, one former prisoner simply said "no," explaining that she never had received more than two servings of food per day. One former prisoner said that in his six years in Cuban prisons, his food rations included a total of six eggs and"never a single piece of chicken." He recalled that for breakfast, he typically received a cup of water with some sugar and for lunch, four or five spoonfuls of rice and a small bowl of unidentifiable soup (caldo loco). He said that he would not have survived but for his family's persistent deliveries of food.3 Several former prisoners said prison authorities served them foul and poorly cleaned food that was both revolting and potentially harmful to eat. Prisoners recalled meals composed of rice or beans that were infested with pests, rotting fish innards, excrement, and putrified cow's and pig's blood. Several prisoners told Human Rights Watch that receiving food in this condition was one of the most degrading experiences of their prison terms.

The Cuban government claimed in late 1997 that "...despite the [U.S.] economic blockade, the penitentiary population was sufficiently nourished. The prisoners can raise poultry and other animals appropriate for their nourishment. They are guaranteed three meals per day...."4 Another government report stated that all prisoners receive 2,160 calories a day, served in three meals, and that any prisoners who are underweight receive additional food and vitamin supplements.5 The government's assertions are contradicted by consistent reports from Cuban prisons that detainees receive inadequate nutrition. Moreover, the prison officials' practice of granting control over food to the prisoners' councils aggravates the nutritional crisis in Cuba's prisons.6 Prisoners' councils routinely abuse this authority, hoarding food for themselves, using it to discipline prisoners or to bribe hungry prisoners for sexual favors. And while Cuban prisoners often work on prison farms, guards typically forbid them from eating the produce or livestock they raise. Moreover, prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch had gleaned information from prison overseers that the food raised on Cuban prison groundswas destined for Cuba's military forces or tourist restaurants.7 Prisoners' family members often encounter difficulties when attempting to leave food for their imprisoned relatives. Prisoners and their family members recalled cases of prison guards refusing to accept food or taking it but failing to give it to prisoners. Cuban prison authorities needlessly aggravate prisoners' suffering with these practices.

Health Concerns

Cuban prisoners also endure overcrowded, squalid conditions that one former prisoner called "primitive and anti-hygienic." Prisoners rarely have regular access to clean drinking water, and bathing water often is filthy or insufficient.8 Toilets are usually filthy holes in the floor. One former prisoner recalled that the toilet near his cell drained into the corridor and onto his cell floor.9 Overcrowding in some facilities requires prisoners to sleep on the floor until other prisoners leave. Mattresses and sheets are rare. Prisoners with mattresses described them as rough sacks stuffed with leaves that were infested with biting insects. Prison authorities rarely permit visitors to bring bedding, clothes, or writing materials. Nevertheless, Cuba has stated that "despite the limitations arising from the economic blockade...all of the areas used by prisoners, including the dormitories, are maintained in a perfectly hygienic sanitary state...."10

Malnutrition leaves Cuban prisoners at risk of numerous diseases.11 Overcrowding and poor hygiene contribute to widespread disease in Cuban prisons. Mosquito-infested, filthy cells are breeding grounds for skin diseases, tuberculosis, conjunctivitis, and scabies. Many prisoners suffer from uncomfortable fungal infections under their arms and between their legs, which could be prevented byimproved hygiene and exposure to sunlight. A physician who served over six years as a political prisoner said he had seen prisoners suffering from malnutrition, beriberi, anemia, polineuropatitis, hepatitis, girardia, lectoperosis (transmitted by rat bites), amoebiasis, vomit and diarrhea, and meningitis. Prisoners also had a high incidence of psychological disorders, including neuroses, anxiety, and depression.12

Despite the serious medical problems affecting Cuban prisoners, prison authorities routinely deny them access to medical care and even refuse to provide prisoners with medicines brought by family members. The Standard Minimum Rules call for prison doctors to visit sick inmates daily and for prisons to provide dental care.13 While many Cuban prisons have medical staff on the prison grounds, prisoners still do not receive prompt attention and appropriate medicines. On occasion, prison authorities treat prisoners suffering from acute conditions in hospitals off prison grounds. But prisoners complain that most ailments go untreated, even extremely painful conditions such as broken bones or multiple cavities. In some cases, prisoners died due to prison doctors' failure to treat them swiftly and sufficiently.14 Prison authorities deny political prisoners medical care as a punishment for anti-government views, as discussed below at Treatment of Political Prisoners.

Restrictions of Visits

Cuban prison authorities impose severe limits on visits from family members and friends. Given the poor prison conditions, the reduction of family visits denies prisoners mental and physical support, including the provision of food and medicine. The Standard Minimum Rules urge prison authorities to assist prisoners in maintaining and improving relationships with their families, and in providing for regular contact with family and friends.15 Prison guards place detainees onspecific regimens, which link the frequency of visits to the prisoners' behavior. The most severe regimens only allow two-hour family visits, with a maximum of two immediate family members, every two or three months. Guards arbitrarily reduce these visits even further, by barring visits for several months or by cancelling family visits at the last minute, often after family members have traveled long distances under difficult conditions. Guards arbitrarily confiscate or refuse to accept food, medicines, and other belongings intended for the personal use of prisoners. Guards also penalize prisoners who refuse to participate in political reeducation sessions by reducing their family visits.

On a positive note, Cuban prison authorities grant some male and female prisoners conjugal visits. The Cuban government states that it allows female prisoners to keep their infants with them until they are one year old, after which they are sent to family or a government-run child-care center (círculo infantil).16 One female prisoner held in a Havana prison for a lengthy term said that in practice, mothers must cede their infants to the government centers when they are six months old.17

Former prisoners and their family members told Human Rights Watch that guards routinely strip-search prisoners and visitors, including the elderly and, on occasion, children. The wife of one prisoner described how guards forced her to disrobe and perform deep knee bends before allowing her to take part in a conjugal visit. She said that the humiliation of the vaginal search made her feel like a prisoner herself.18 The strip-searches were performed by same-sex guards.

Human Rights Watch is cognizant of prison security requirements and the difficulty of reconciling such constraints with humane visiting policies. Yet, family members, particularly children and the elderly, should not be subjected to degrading searches as the cost of a visit. Human Rights Watch agrees with a 1996 decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluding that vaginal searches are only acceptable if, in each instance: 1) they are absolutely necessary for achieving a legitimate objective, 2) there is no alternative means ofachieving the objective, 3) they are authorized by a judicial order, and 4) they are conducted by a health professional.19

Restrictions of Religious Visits

The Standard Minimum Rules call for prison authorities to respect religious beliefs, to allow prisoners to meet with religious advisors in private, and to allow prisoners to participate in religious instruction.20 In 1989, the Cuban Interior Ministry re-authorized the right of religious groups to provide for the spiritual needs of Cuban prisoners, which was banned in 1964. Nonetheless, prisoners face multiple barriers to receiving religious guidance in Cuba's prisons. Prison authorities apparently require prisoners to make written requests to prison directors noting their interest in religious attention, yet directors rarely inform prisoners of this requirement.21 In late 1997 prison guards reportedly harassed and threatened to prosecute Augusto César San Martín Albistur, who was sentenced to seventeen years in 1994 for revealing secrets concerning the security of the state, reportedly because he had solicited religious attention.22 Some prison guards subject prisoners to interrogations about their religious beliefs when they ask for pastoral care. The guards apparently explain that the prisoners must first "properly" answer questions such as: "why do you hold this faith?"; "why do you want religious assistance?"; or, "why do you prefer this religion over others?"23 Nonetheless, the Cuban government allows some Catholic clergy to make limited prison visits while arbitrarily denying the requests of others. In April 1998, the Archdiocese of Havana expressed frustration at the government's refusal to allow detainees to meetwith Catholic clergy.24 But even when the authorities permit visits, prison guards often accompany the representatives.

Political Indoctrination

Cuba requires prisoners to undergo political indoctrination. The prison authorities' emphasis on political "reeducation," rather than broader educational opportunities, exercise, and recreational and cultural activities, runs counter to the Standard Minimum Rules' provisions to protect convicts' mental and physical health.25 Cuba's insistence that all prisoners, whether held for political or common crimes, engage in pro-government activities also violates those prisoners' freedom of opinion.26 Prison officials routinely punish prisoners who fail to participate in the political reeducation activities.

Obligatory prison reeducation programs, directed by the prison's reeducator who usually is a military official, require prisoners to shout pro-government slogans, including "Long Live Fidel," "Commander-in-Chief, Give Us Your Orders," "Socialism or Death," and "The Homeland or Death - We Will Win!" Prisoners also must participate in "cycles" (ciclos), where they study and take quizzes based on pro-government reading materials. Prisoners also noted that reeducators sometimes turn over the responsibility for carrying out reeducation sessions to the abusive prisoners' councils. Prison authorities force compliance with political reeducation programs by subjecting non-participating prisoners to beatings (often carried out by the prisoners' councils), denying food rations, transferring inmates to prisons with worse conditions, or suspending the right to conditional liberty, visits, access to sunlight, or other benefits.

Prisoners consider reeducators among the most abusive prison authorities. Former political prisoner Raúl Ayarde Herrera recalled that the reeducator at the Pinar del Río Provincial Prison, known as Osiris, told him "you have to reeducate yourself. Then you'll get more food." On November 9, 1997, nine days after Ayarde Herrera commenced a hunger strike to protest prison conditions and his detention in an isolation cell, Osiris and the prison official in charge of politicalprisoners, state security Lt. Mario Medina, beat him and cut his face with a piece of a broken mirror.27

Cuban prisons provide limited educational and recreational opportunities. The Standard Minimum Rules recommend that all prisons have libraries stocked with recreational and instructional books that are accessible to all inmates.28 But Cuban prison authorities typically provide limited access to reading materials and ban any books that might contain anti-government content. Prisoners complain that they are rarely permitted outside for exercise or simply to be in the sun (many suffer ailments related to sunlight deprivation).

Prison Labor

Cuba provides prisoners with opportunities to work, which in some cases provide helpful job-training, but these programs do not always satisfy the Standard Minimum Rules' regulations governing prison labor programs. The Standard Minimum Rules require prisons to have physically fit convicts to take part in vocational training and to engage in meaningful, rehabilitative work for equitable remuneration.29 Cuba's insistence that some political prisoners participate in work programs and its inappropriate pressuring of inmates to work without pay in inhuman conditions violate international labor and prison rights standards. Prison labor conditions are discussed in detail below, at Labor Rights: Prison Labor.


The Cuban government has stated that "it does not practice, nor allow, corporal punishment, nor are there any darkened cells, nor degrading or cruel punishments, nor punishments that humiliate or minimize the dignity of a detainee."30 Unfortunately, this assessment bears little relation to the reality of Cuban prisons, where guards frequently mete out long punishment periods in darkened isolation cells. The use of this extremely destructive and unnecessary practice is detailed below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners: Abusive Pretrial Detentions and Post-Conviction Isolation.

Beatings by Police, Guards and Prisoners' Councils

Cuban prison guards and prisoners' councils reportedly use beatings as a disciplinary measure, to punish political opinions, to intimidate prisoners for sex, or for other reasons.31 Several former prisoners believed that prison guards grant disciplinary authority to prisoners' councils, in direct violation of the Standard Minimum Rules, in order to avoid becoming directly involved in physically abusing prisoners themselves. Prison authorities reportedly are quite sensitive to criticism of their human rights practices and typically punish prisoners who criticize prison abuses or attempt to publicize them.32 Prisoners in pretrial detention, particularly political prisoners, also face beatings. Some prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch recalled minor actions taken by Cuban authorities against prison guards implicated in abuses, in one case a transfer to another post. We have learned of one 1998 case where two guards beat a political prisoner in which the government reportedly intended to prosecute the wrongdoers. We know of no incident when prison authorities disciplined a member of a prisoners' council who was implicated in beating a fellow prisoner.

In a report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, Cuba provided some information about internal efforts to establish accountability for a broad range of rights and specifically mentioned receiving complaints of abuse in its prisons. Since Cuba permits no independent prison monitoring, and has not even released the number of prisoners currently detained in its prisons, it is impossible to confirm the veracity of this information. Without providing specific details of any cases, the government stated that in 1997 it had received thirty-seven complaints of ill-treatment in prison or in custody; had taken "administrative or disciplinary measures" in ten of those cases; and had sent ten cases to the courts, one of which resulted in an eight-year sentence.33 If true, Cuba's actions would constitute encouraging steps toward establishing accountability for prisoners' rights abuses. A February 1999 Criminal Code reform provided that prisoners "cannot be the objects of corporal punishment, nor is it permitted to employ any means againstthem to humiliate them or to lessen their dignity."34 The failure to create any penalties for committing such acts or to define them explicitly as crimes diminishes the potential impact of this reform. Furthermore, Cuba's retaliations against prisoners who denounce prison abuses and conditions and its ban on prison monitoring suggest a determination to cover up—rather than expose and punish—prison abuses.

Cuba detains untried individuals in a variety of institutions, ranging from police stations to state security headquarters and maximum security prisons (where they are improperly detained with convicted violent offenders). Heavy reliance on incommunicado pretrial detention heightens the risk that police or prison guards will brutalize detainees. On June 30, 1998, Cuban police arrested Reinery Marrero Toledo, alleging that he had ties with some neighbors who had been charged with slaughtering livestock (sacrificio ilegal de ganado).35 On July 9, 1998, agents of the Technical Department of Investigations in Havana (Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones, DTI) told his family that he had committed suicide by hanging himself with a sheet. However, a family member who viewed his corpse noted that it was heavily bruised and recalled that the police had cancelled his scheduled family visit the day before his death.36

On July 18, 1998, prisoners at the Nieves Morejón prison in Sancti Spiritus beat Adiannes Jordán Contreras, who was serving a ten-year sentence for piracy. Reportedly, the victim and her sister, Mayda Bárbara Jordán Contreras, who was serving a fifteen-year term for piracy, had decided not to wear prison uniforms or comply with other prison rules. The sisters believed that the prison's reeducator, Yeni Sánchez López, and two guards had ordered the beating as a reprisal.37

One former political prisoner who served in the Las Tunas Provincial Prison from August 1997 to February 1998 recalled several instances when guards used iron bars about the size of baseball bats, lightly-covered with cloth, to beat common prisoners. Some of these beatings occurred after prisoners insisted on a lightening of the prison regimen. He said that during his term at the Micro 4 Prisonin Havana, in 1996 and 1997, guards got drunk on weekends and on several occasions took prisoners out of their cells to practice martial arts techniques on them.38

Sexual Abuse

Members of prisoners' councils apparently commit widespread sexual abuse with the acquiescence of prison authorities. To a lesser extent, prison guards also commit sexual abuse and engage in sexual misconduct with prisoners under the guise of "consensual" sexual relationships. The prison systems' youngest inmates are most vulnerable to sexual abuse. While the former prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch did not know the exact ages of young prisoners who had suffered sexual abuse, they believed that many of these prisoners were under the age of eighteen. Cuba's full compliance with the Standard Minimum Rules' bar on detaining minors in adult facilities would help protect youths from this type of abuse.

Given the near absolute authority that guards have over prisoners' lives, even so-called "consensual" sex between guards and inmates constitutes a serious form of misconduct.39 Because prisoners are dependent on guards for the most basic necessities, guards' offer of, or the threat to eliminate, privileges or goods carries tremendous weight. Former detainees in women's prisons said that sexual relations between male guards and female prisoners were not uncommon. One prisoner recalled that when ranking prison authorities became aware of several of these relationships, they punished the prisoners, rather than the guards.40 One prisoner interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that a male prison guard at Las Tunas had received oral sex from a male prisoner in 1997. It was not clear if the sexual contact was "voluntary." The guard later was moved from his post, but he was not fired.41

The prisoners' councils, which are active in men's facilities, apparently rape younger detainees, intimidate them with beatings, or lure them into sexual relationships with offers of food (since prison authorities grant them control of food distribution), drugs, or other hard-to-obtain goods. Prison guards apparently permit these abuses in order to ensure the loyalty of the prisoners' councils, who they have improperly imbued with internal prison disciplinary authority. Human Rights Watch learned from a credible source that members of a prisoner council had subjected one male detainee to repeated rapes, which left the victim emotionally devastated.42 One former prisoner said that while the prisoners' council's sexual abuse was "constant," he knew of no case when a guard intervened.43 Another former prisoner said that guards permit the council members to practice sodomy and that there are "many cases of rape."44

Juvenile Justice

Cuban courts do not prosecute minors under the age of sixteen. Rather, "child welfare councils" under the direction of the Minister of the Interior can order children detained for indefinite periods in "reeducation centers."45 A multidisciplinary team examines the child and decides his or her fate. The child is represented by a lawyer from the Ministry of the Iinterior, but it is not clear whether the attorney represents the child's interests or the government's, nor if the attorney provides adequate representation.46 The indefinite term of detention alsois cause for concern, since international children's rights standards ratified by Cuba require that any restrictions on children's liberty are kept to a minimum.47

The Cuban system provides that juveniles from age sixteen to eighteen who receive prison sentences may serve those sentences in facilities holding detainees from the ages of sixteen to twenty, but they still risk being placed in prisons with adults.48 Several former Cuban prisoners told Human Rights Watch that they encountered youngsters whom they believed were under eighteen in adult prisons. Mixing minors and adults in detention facilities violates strict international rules against such practices, principally because the youths are at risk of abuse by the older, more powerful adult prisoners.49 Human Rights Watch also received reports that young Cuban prisoners were subjected to serious physical and sexual abuse in adult prisons.
242 Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, approved by the U.N. Economic and Social Council by resolutions 663 C, July 31, 1957, and 2076, May 13, 1977. 243 "Informe de la Fiscalía General de la República de Cuba," presented by Blanca Gutiérrez, Cuba's Attorney General for the Control of Legality in Penitentiary Establishments at the Instituto Latinoamericano de las Naciones Unidas para la Prevención del Delito y el Tratamiento del Delincuente conference, San José, Costa Rica, February 1997, p. 5.244 Cuban report to the Committee Against Torture, November 17, 1997 (CAT/C/SR.310/Add.1), March 25, 1998, para. 17.245 The government also has stated that it maintains files at each prison that are regularly updated to reflect the prisoner's legal and medical status. Prison officials and government prosecutors reportedly examine each of these files when they conduct prison inspections. Ibid., p. 6. Several former prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that prison officials told them that they could not be released until the officials had received computer authorization from Havana to do so.246 In August 1998, Cuba told the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that it would begin to compile statistics on the racial makeup of its prison population in order to submit these to treaty bodies in the future. Cuba unconvincingly argued that its not having compiled racial breakdowns previously demonstrated that the government did not discriminate. Consideration of the Report Submitted by Cuba to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, August 13, 1998 (CERD/C/SR.1291), issued August 18, 1998, para. 7. One scholar noted that in the late 1980s "blacks and mulattoes [were] over-represented in the prison population." Alejandro de la Fuente, "Recreating Racism: Race and Discrimination in Cuba's Special Period," Cuba Briefing Paper Series, July 1998, p. 5. 247 "Lista Parcial de Prisiones y Centros Correccionales," Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, hereinafter, the Cuban Commission), Havana, December 31, 1996. 248 Cuban Report to the Committee Against Torture, para. 27.249 Ibid., para. 31.250 Human Rights Watch interview with Víctor Reynaldo Infante Estrada, Toronto, April 14, 1998. 251 Ibid.252 The Standard Minimum Rules prohibit prison authorities from granting prisoners any disciplinary authority over other prisoners. Article 28(1). As Human Rights Watch concluded in our global prison report: "No inmate should ever be placed in a position to exercise significant authority over other prisoners." Human Rights Watch, Global Report on Prisons (Human Rights Watch: New York, 1993), p. 46.

253 Frances-Libertés, Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme, Medecins du Monde, and Human Rights Watch/Americas, Cuba: Situation des Prisonniers Politiques: Mission du 28 Avril au 5 Mai 1995: Rapport de Mission, December 1995. See also, Human Rights Watch/Americas, Improvements without Reform, October 1995.

254 Human Rights Watch interviews with former political prisoners; names withheld for security.

255 International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC Annual Report: 1996 (Geneva: ICRC, 1996), p. 8.

0 During the January 1998 papal visit to Cuba, authorities reportedly used an ambulance marked with a red cross to remove an anti-government demonstrator from the pope's January 23 open air mass in Havana. Juan Tamayo, "Cruz Roja Investiga Uso Indebido de Ambulancia," El Nuevo Herald, March 6, 1998. This incident called into question Cuba's respect for internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian standards, and specifically, the protective emblem of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

1 The Standard Minimum Rules call for "food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served." Article 20(1).

2 Human Rights Watch interview with Edelberto Del Toro Argota, Toronto, April 12, 1998.

3 Human Rights Watch interview with Víctor Reynaldo Infante Estrada, Toronto, April 14, 1998.

4 Excerpted from Cuba's December 1997 report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, by Pablo Alfonso, "Comida en Prisiones es Balanceada, Dice Gobierno," El Nuevo Herald, February 12, 1998.

5 "Informe de la Fiscalía General," p. 8.

6 As mentioned above, this practice violates the Standard Minimum Rules prohibition on granting prisoners authority over one another. Article 28(1).

7 Prison labor conditions are discussed below, at Labor Rights: Prison Labor.

8 The Standard Minimum Rules call for prisoners to have access to drinking water whenever they need it. Article 20(2).

9 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with José Miranda Acosta, Toronto, May 7, 1998.

10 "Informe de la Fiscalía General," p. 8.

11 Glenn R. Randall and Ellen L. Lutz, Serving Survivors of Torture: A Practice Manual for Health Professionals and Other Service Providers, (Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1991), p. 20.

12 Ibid., pp. 35-36. Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Omar del Pozo Marrero, Toronto, April 14, 1998.

13 Articles 25(1) and 22(3), Standard Minimum Rules.

14 The cases of Aurelio Ricart Hernández, who died on February 19, 1997, in the Micro 4 Prison in Havana, and Pedro Armenteros Laza and Sebastian Arcos Bergnes—two political prisoners who Cuban prison doctors failed to treat for serious conditions and who died as a result of those illnesses after their releases—are discussed below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners: Denial of Medical Treatment.

15 Articles 61 and 37.

16 "Informe de la Fiscalía General," p. 11.

17 Human Rights Watch interview with Rosalina González Lafita, Toronto, April 13, 1998.

18 Strip-searches of several political prisoners' relatives are detailed below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners: Hardships for Political Prisoners' Family Members.

19 María Arena v. Argentina, Case No. 10,506 (October 30, 1996). The commission ruled that such searches constitute degrading treatment, an arbitrary interference with personal privacy, and violate the right to protection of the family. For further discussion of this practice, see Human Rights Watch/Americas, Punishment Before Trial: Prison Conditions in Venezuela (Human Rights Watch: New York, 1997), pp. 82-86.

20 Standard Minimum Rules, Articles 6(2), 41(2), 41(3), and 77(1).

21 María de los Angeles González Amaro, "La Iglesia Católica y Pastoral Carcelaria," Agencia de Prensa Independiente de Cuba (APIC), June 18, 1996.

22 Marvin Hernández Monzón, "Sufriendo por la Fé, " Cuba Press, February 23, 1998.

23 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Omar del Pozo Marrero, Toronto, April 14, 1998.

24 Agence France Presse, "Revista Dice Impiden Actos Religiosos a los Presos," El Nuevo Herald, April 19, 1998.

25 Articles 21(1) and (2), 77(1), and 78.

26 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to manifest his or her beliefs in public. UDHR, Articles 19 and 18.

27 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Raúl Ayarde Herrera, Toronto, April 21, 1998.

28 Standard Minimum Rules, Article 40.

29 Ibid., Articles 71, 72, and 76(1).

30 "Informe de la Fiscalía General," p. 11.

31 Several cases of guards beating prisoners due to their political opinion are discussed below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners: Beatings.

32 This practice is discussed further below, at Treatment of Political Prisoners: Criminal Charges for Denouncing Abuses.

33 Cuban report to the Committee Against Torture, March 3, 1998, para. 25.

34 Law Number 87 (1999), Article 1, modifying Law Number 62 (1988), Article 30.

35 Criminal Code, Article 240.

36 Orlando Bordón Gálvez, "Sospecho 'Suicidio' de Recluso," Cuba Press, July 9, 1998.

37 Public letter from Amado J. Rodríguez, Coordinator, Human Rights in Cuba, Miami, August 13, 1998.

38 Human Rights Watch interview with Marcos Antonio Hernández García, Toronto, April 13, 1998.

39 For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Human Rights Watch, All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons (Human Rights Watch: New York, 1996), pp. 4-5, 217.

40 Human Rights Watch interview with Rosalina González Lafita, Toronto, April 13, 1998.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with Marcos Antonio Hernández García, Toronto, April 13, 1998.

42 Human Rights Watch interview; name withheld for security.

43 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Raúl Ayarde Herrera, Toronto, April 21, 1998.

44 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with René Portelles, Toronto, April 21, 1998.

45 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention," (CRC/C/8/Add.30.), issued February 15, 1996.

46 Ibid. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. Res. 44/25, November 1989, entered into force September 2, 1990, Article 37(d). Cuba ratified the Convention on August 21, 1991.

47 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37(b); and U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), G.A. Res 40/33, November 29, 1985, Article 17.1(b).

48 The February 1999 Criminal Code reform stated that minors younger than twenty should be held in separate establishments from older detainees or in separate areas of the same detention facilities. Law Number 87, Article 1. It is too early to tell whether this provision will result in the segregation of minor and adult detainees.

49 Beijing Rules, Article 26.3.

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